ukrainian fashion week: svetlana bevza

(images via ufw)

after a couple of rounds of precise, almost mathematical architectural lines (though i should be fair and say she hasn’t eschewed them completely) for her s/s 2011 & s/s 2012 collections, the f/w 2012 season found ukrainian designer svetlana bevza (Світлана Бевза) in a more playful mood.  titling the range ‘cat,’ the site ivona explained that the walls of the exhibition hall were decked out with silhouettes of cat’s heads, and little motifs evoking the animal were rife throughout—although in true bevza fashion, we didn’t see the kind of cutesy little kitty prints that were so hot a couple of seasons ago (as likely started by the miu miu s/s 2010 show), but allusions much more subtle. 

the designer is known for her ‘little white dress,’ and although she on occasion adds pops of colour to her collections, she has never been one to get crazy with neons and prints.  thus, black, milky white, mahogany, steel, umber, and various other gray-brown hues made up a palette that was, as izum pointed out, spiced up with prints made to look like cat’s fur in several manifestations (though for the unknowing, it looked rather like woodgrain, as well, as céline had for their f/w 2011 show).  the ukrainian site story reported that peplums were sculpted to look like cat’s claws (or, i thought, teeth), while the fringing appeared like another sort of feline fur, and the onyx and silver  accessories (necklaces and earrings) featured similarly sharp points. 

yet it would be a mistake to think that ms. bevza has left behind her rigid geometry of the past.  it was still present—as much as ever, in fact—and her work had more of an architectural sharpness to it than anything sweetly feline or edging towards hello kitty-like (as most of the other collections featuring similar imagery were likely to be); her kitty heads and references were so coolly slipped into the mix as to be easily overlooked, even when one knew they were there.  the juxtaposition of fabrics and texture was a main part of the story for fall, and besides the fringe and printed fur, she worked with shiny and matte textiles, heavy and lightweight—patent leather, satin, chiffon, wool suiting, and mesh all found their way into the mix. 

in a rather astute observation (if i’m getting everything they said correct), the blog be in trend suggested that the models’ headdresses rather resembled some type of military headgear from the middle ages; this got me thinking about torture devices, and i think there were definite nods to s&m throughout the show.  but all the same, and despite some of the riskier sheer looks (as below), there were quite a few exits that were absolutely smart and the height of work-appropriate fashion.  that was one of the brilliant things about the range—the way the designer’s ideas crept in, all the while she was busily informing us not to mind, everything here was classic and normal, ‘nothing to see here, really!’-like. 

yet the capes, straps, wide leather belts, long gloves, and pointy ankle-strapped torturous-looking shoes pulled us back into the catwoman fetish.  and that was why the collection worked so well; it had references for both the demure—the smart suits, dresses with long and wide sleeves that tapered at the wrist, and tailored coats—and the *ahem* ‘adventurous’ types, that could pull these pieces together to make something a little spicier.  of course, in the end, not everyone is going to get it, or like it.  but i do want to encourage you to respect the designer’s creativity and scope of detail she accumulated, particularly in a collection that’s true to her minimalist nature.  it was no small feat, and she’s proving she’s one of the more intelligent and interesting exhibitors at ufw.  and this is what it’s all about; really, where else in the world would one find a show like this?

(watch the full fashion show video here)

toronto fashion week: adrian wu

(images via wowza magazine)

young canadian designer adrian wu made his debut at toronto fashion week last season with an ambitious s/s 2012 collection centered around quantum physics.  it wasn’t a bad show, although it was clear that he’d have to come some ways, perhaps, before he’d be inspiring the kind of intellectually weighty discussions he seemed to wish to (like comme des garcons, as some writers remarked at the time).  anyway, a season along, and mr. wu’s latest range, for a/w 2012, titled, as plaid magazine reports, ‘hierarchy of needs,’ was, in some respects, still grabbing for attention—particularly with the v for vendetta masks models sported—but it was also clear he’d gone back to the drawing board with regards to garment construction, and the result was smoother, more professional-looking pieces. 

“I wanted to do a collection that ascetically looked dramatic, romantic and a little bit wearable, but very much a reflection of my own technique,” the designer told kenton magazine, which went on to cite “a comparison between North American politics versus European politics and how it affects human rights,” and “old Parisian clothing, a mix of countryside and couture” as influences.  meanwhile, wowza magazine added that “Amélie — the movie and South of France were some of other inspirations,” and société perrier stated that “Wu draws inspiration from the traditional Victorian-era shape and demonstrates eccentricity and skill with draping and tucking to create unique, one-of-a-kind pieces.”  the palette was fully autumnal, in shades of hunter green, mustard, navy, unbleached canvas, black, and ochre, with some colour-blocking and (in another curious tie-in to natalie portman) pieces covered in tiny polka dots (as on the vintage christian dior gown the actress recently wore to the academy awards). 

anyway, the same volume that reigned for the spring show was still present here, with front row mag commenting that “(e)ach gown offered great visual interest and intricacy leaving the audience to wonder how each creation was made. And Wu made an extreme change with his footwear anchoring the femininity of the line; from last season’s platform geta-style shoes this season he opted for wedge work boots. While the pieces were quite classic in structure and shape, Wu added in some interesting flavour, such as the cream reverse hi-lo dress that offered a scandalous view of the model’s behind.” and sp related that “(t)he show began by parading models clad in brown ankle booties and more traditional silhouettes with impressive draping and pleating, and became more dramatic and theatrical with time. Each dress was feminine and poufy and boasted a sense of humour about conventional necklines.”

yet it was doubtless the toronto standard summed the thing up best in writing, “(i)t’s no doubt that Wu has some serious talent for design: the young designer sent voluminous gowns down the runway, made entirely out of flannelette material (rather, pajama material) which was tucked and pinned to form interesting, un-pajama-like silhouettes. His craftsmanship is pretty inventive – the dresses even seemed to have a life of their own as they floated down the runway. But his superb talents were, once again, overshadowed by a perplexing symbolism…it was unclear as to what or whom he was protesting…I don’t know if Wu was making a statement about himself, the French, or us.”  it’s a good way to put it, and i’m certainly glad to see mr. wu improving.  but it’s a little unfortunate that so many young designers appear to believe they’ve got to incorporate some fantastical element to get attention.  and anyway, those skilled enough to have the kind they want will be able to see it, even in a minimalist white dress (see additional images at to-fashionistas).

(watch the video highlights here)

japan fashion week: nozomi ishiguro

(images via wwd)

after a s/s 2012 show titled ‘cream puffs and coup d’etat,’ nozomi ishiguro (タンバリン) once again opened up his repository of playfully patchworked and streetwear-inspired ideas for the a/w 2012 collection, presented at tokyo’s japan fashion week.  the site tokyo fashion argued that “(u)nlike some of the more conceptual collections at JFW, we expect to see these pieces being worn on the street by Tokyo’s fashionable young people,” and i expect they’re right, although it does say something about the adventurous nature of japanese fashion when half a coat sewn to a quarter of a t-shirt, a half-skirt, and the sleeve of a plaid jacket constitutes one of the more wearable and less conceptual shows. 

anyway, the japanese site fashion press reported that the autumn range was inspired by (trans.) “(c)asual American,” styles as well as the idea of a “bright future,” “dynamism,” and generally positive things.  and wwd reported that the designer “seemed to meld a series of influences ranging from western to grunge to hip hop. Perhaps one of the first women’s looks out on the runway best summarized the multimedia mishmash: a short dress featuring a single plaid shirt sleeve spliced with part of a graphic t-shirt, half a skirt in lace and half of a dress form in embroidered black fabric. A couple patchwork t-shirt dresses built on that theme. There were also fuzzy, textured knits including a sleeveless number with a denim back. Fringe made the odd appearance on a denim shirt or jeans.”

meanwhile, similarly musing that “hip hop, athletic jocks, cowboys and many more,” elements were to be found for the designer’s manifestation of fall, jenne chrisville reported that “(t)here was a variety of materials which was shown in this collection- from leather, knits, cottons and even lace and denim which we usually see in spring collections. It was interesting to see how he played with these materials mainly on his patchwork clothes.”  i wouldn’t say this range was as weighty or thoughtful as what we saw last time around (i got a certain sense that we’d seen it before with the comme des garçons a/w 2011 collection), but then again, i can certainly appreciate how the young, cool things would be extremely moved by what the designer had on display.  i’d probably feel quite differently (and a lot more excited) if these pieces were in front of me on a rack somewhere, which is no doubt what they’re supposed to evoke (see additional images at japanese streets).

(watch the collection video here)

moscow fashion week: BΛSHΛRΛTYΛN V

(images via intermoda)

wow.  it feels like we were just discussing the s/s 2012 collection of designer veronica basharatyan’s (Вероника Башаратьян) london-based house, BΛSHΛRΛTYΛN V, and now she’s once again showing her work, this time for the f/w 2012 season at moscow fashion week (it’s not that it was that fast, just that opt is slow).  but i’m happy to have the opportunity to discuss her designs again, as we’ve seen her previously steeping her work in thoughtful and historical ideas, which fortunately for us was the case once more for fall.  if her aesthetic is also a little difficult at first, a little—or, well, actually, like nothing you’ve ever seen before, then i think that just makes it all the more exciting. 

the present collection is called ‘balkaria,’ and according to the russia site intermoda, is based on the kabardino-balkaria region of russia, located in the northern caucasus (ms. basharatyan is herself of balkarian-armenian descent, but it’s not clear whether she was raised in the area).  “The main focus was on how to reproduce the image of the Balkar female dress in modern style,” (trans.) the site explained, going on to quote the designer as saying that “The world is full of different traditions, but we sometimes live our lives without even noticing them. I want to show how ancient heritage can be reflected in a modern way and still be very fashionable!” i love that this is her goal, and it’s an idea that worked well with her spring range, inspired by middle eastern women and poetry. 

anyway, as with the spring palette, the designer didn’t pull any shocking moves, centering around classic tones like black, nude, navy, silver, white, pale gray, and chocolate brown.  and in-keeping with her preference to rely on natural fabrics, the ukrainian site style news (they’ve good information, but some unfortunate nsfw gifs on the page, so beware before clicking) informed us that wool, cashmere, silk, chiffon, and organza were employed, while the embellishments included metallic silver embroidery, ribbons, and elaborate buttons.  many of the pieces were hand-woven, they noted, while the collection’s prints were (trans.)  inspired by traditional Balkaria paintings,” and digitally processed to give a certain optical illusion effect. 

as for the silhouettes of the clothing, i’m not going to lie—they were hard to process, and that’s coming from someone who is a fan of the designer.  at first glance they seemed almost like something from a retro-sixties science fiction movie (space uniforms, perhaps?), the dresses and blouses featuring that high-necked, rounded collar, but exaggerated, and more so than we’d seen on vintage garments.  shoulders were quite strong, too, extending out like a triangle to meet the (usually short) sleeves in a fashion that recalled the work of thierry mugler.  sometimes the waist was cinched with a jeweled belt to give some sense of shape, or sometimes the garment fell shapeless and rather boxy to the floor, while…armwarmers? that looked a bit like scarves clenched the biceps before cascading and swirling towards the floor in several layers of fabric.

as a work of art, it was undeniably lovely and informative, but when considering the collection from the commercial perspective, things began quickly to get hazy.  the easiest sells would certainly be the trousers—they were fairly classic and tailored—and some of the simpler dresses (as the drop-waisted sleeveless nude number, above) and the little cropped jackets might also find their audience.  yet with regards to those strongly-defined dresses and gowns…i’m not really sure.  as with any collection based on national costume or typical mode of dress (as the recent anouki bicholla show), while i’m sure that viewers would appreciate the historical aspects and craftsmanship of the collection, i don’t know that they would see it as actual clothing, not as costumes or museum pieces.  maybe i’m wrong, and i certainly admire these designers for introducing the styles to others, and for trying.  but ultimately, even for the adventurous type (like me), they’re probably better suited to the runway, where we can pay our respects…and turn to something a little more contemporary to trout out on the streets.

(watch the full show video here)